The Oneonta Finance Committee discussed a variety of topics during its Monday night meeting including the Oneonta Theatre and health insurance for employees.

The city of Oneonta, on behalf of the group that owns the Oneonta Theatre, is in the process of applying for up to $500,000 New York Main Street Downtown Stabilization Project grant that is available in the Consolidated Funding Application, Community Development Director Judy Pangman said.

Council Member Len Carson, R-Fifth Ward, asked if the grant money would help fix the marquee. Pangman said it wouldn’t; instead it would be used to stabilize the roof and fix water issues the theater has. The group would have to match a percentage of the funds to help with repairs, she said.

She said the owners of the theater building can only apply for one grant per year from the state and said in the future, they could apply for a planning grant or as a downtown anchor business grant.

“This is exciting,” Council Member Kaytee Lipari Shue, D-Fourth Ward, said. “I hope they get it.”

Pangman said the application is due July 29, and asked the committee to send a resolution to the council to vote on in July.

Pangman also talked about the Brownfield Opportunity Areas Program through the state the application of which is also due at the end of July. She said the city could apply for up to $300,000 for a planning grant.

“We don’t necessarily have brownfields in the city, but the grant also covers slums and blighted areas and areas not developed,” she said.

She said in an email Tuesday, “We are looking at the City’s Opportunity Zone, which is the census tract that includes the area south of Main Street (Neahwa Park, Market Street, Railyards, etc.), and the Wells Avenue and Factory Street area.”

The grant would help fund environmental surveys to determine if the areas are brownfields.

Carson asked if the property looked at would be private or public. Pangman said they would be looking at privately owned properties in detail to determine if there are any brownfield areas.

The committee also discussed a way to save money on health insurance.

Personnel Director Katie Böttger said she and Finance Director Virginia Lee “have been brainstorming on health insurance savings.”

One way is to see if retired employees under 65 are eligible to receive Medicare because of a disability. Böttger said each person who qualifies for Medicare would save the city “tens of thousands of dollars.”

She said a retiree who qualifies for Medicare would receive benefits “nearly identical” to what they receive now. However, they would also be eligible for hearing aids under Medicare, which isn’t covered under the current plan, she said.

She said they would like the city to contract out with a company that would interview retirees to see if they are eligible for Medicare.

If the company finds a person eligible for Medicare, the company would receive $2,500 for each person.

The committee passed the resolution onto the full council.


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